Unpacking the Collection

Networks of Material and Social Agency in the Museum

  • Sarah Byrne
  • Anne Clarke
  • Rodney Harrison
  • Robin Torrence

Part of the One World Archaeology book series (WORLDARCH)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-viii
  2. Introduction

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Sarah Byrne, Anne Clarke, Rodney Harrison, Robin Torrence
      Pages 3-26
  3. Processes and Perspectives

  4. Collectors and Nationhood

  5. Communities and Collections

  6. Individual Collectors, Objects and ‘Types’

  7. Back Matter
    Pages 327-342

About this book


Museum collections are often perceived as static entities hidden away in storerooms or trapped behind glass cases. By focusing on the dynamic histories of museum collections, new research reveals their pivotal role in shaping a wide range of social relations.  Over time and across space the interactions between these artefacts and  the  people and institutions who made, traded, collected, researched and  exhibited them have generated complex networks of material and social agency.

In this innovative volume, the contributors draw on a broad range of source materials to explore the cross-cultural interactions which have created museum collections. These case studies contribute significantly to the development of new theoretical frameworks to  examine broader questions of materiality, agency, and identity in the past and present.

 Grounded in case studies from individual objects and museum  collections from North America, Europe, Africa, the Pacific Islands, and Australia, this truly international volume juxtaposes historical,  geographical, and cross-cultural studies.

This work will be of great interest to archaeologists and anthropologists studying material culture, as well as researchers in museum studies and cultural heritage management.


Archaeological Theory Cross-Cultural Cultural Heritage Management Identity and materiality Indigenous preservation Material Agency Material Culture Museum Studies archaeological preservation museum management

Editors and affiliations

  • Sarah Byrne
    • 1
  • Anne Clarke
    • 2
  • Rodney Harrison
    • 3
  • Robin Torrence
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute of ArchaeologyUniversity College LondonLondonUnited Kingdom
  2. 2.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Faculty of ArtsThe Open UniversityMilton KeynesUnited Kingdom
  4. 4.Australian Museum and UniversityofSydneySydneyAustralia

Bibliographic information